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Put the ball in play

San Francisco’s bats made contact in high-leverage situations against Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes—and you’ll never guess what happened next...

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Manaea claimed his first win in a San Francisco Giants uniform Friday night as the bats put the ball in play against Milwaukee Brewers Corbin Burnes, collecting a 6 - 4 win.

Manaea has struggled with consistency to start the 2023 season. Though his velocity on his fastball is up, he’s had problems locating it or working in his secondary pitches effectively. He has 27 strikeouts over 23.1 innings of work, but walks and solid contact have inflated his WHIP to 1.63. Opposing hitters aren’t struggling to barrel up his pitches and the expected Statcast numbers against Manaea are accordingly red hot, or ice cold depending on your perspective. What I mean is they’re bad.

What can be said about Sean Manaea is that he’s tough. He took a line drive off a knee in Mexico City that he thought might have cracked his kneecap but he elected to stay in the game. On Friday night, he gritted through a long 1st, multiple instances of unhelpful defense in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th innings that hurt his ERA and pitch count, and left the mound in a 4 - 2 hole positioned for the loss. All that being said, Manaea put together some decent work in his middle innings and kept the game in reach against a tough starter in Burnes.

Manaea stressed through a 30-pitch first inning. After a brief rain delay, the Brewers came out swinging, and started the game’s scoring with 1 run on 3 consecutive hits.

The sun broke through the low-evening clouds though when Manaea got Christian Yelich to ground into a double play to flip a 2-runners on, no out humdinger into a one on, two-out escape route. Third baseman Brian Anderson then worked an 8-pitch walk, setting up Milwaukee runners at the corners. With Luke Voit at the plate, Manaea caught Anderson off the bag for what looked like the third out of the inning, but first baseman LaMonte Wade, Jr. failed to check the runner at 3rd after receiving the pickoff throw. With no look or pump fake from Wade, Owen Miller scored from third before Anderson was tagged out in no man’s land.

J.D. Davis made quick work of Milwaukee’s 2-run lead. After a leadoff walk from Wade, Davis, in his first ever at-bat against the Brewers starter Corbin Burnes, had seen enough on the first pitch: a thigh-high cutter that he let travel through the plate before launching it over the Willie Mays Wall in right.

It was Davis’s 7th home run of the season and leads the club with LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores both with 6 and Mike Yastrzemski and Blake Sabol with 5 each.

Both starters settled in after the initial innings until the 5th.

Manaea’s 5th started much like his 1st. Consecutive singles from the 8-and-9 hitters and a double-steal setup runners in scoring position with no out. Manaea was able to fan William Contereas with a dotted change-up on the low-and-inside corner for the first out. Light at the end of the tunnel again appeared for Manaea after getting Miller in a 2-strike hole before catcher Joey Bart tried to throw behind the lead runner at 3rd and airmailed it into right field. The errant throw broke the 2-2 tie and set-up Miller’s subsequent sacrifice fly.

Manaea finished the 5th on an inside fastball to Christina Yelich for his 6th strikeout. His line: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Not an Anthony DeSclafani or Logan Webb performance, but a fair one from the back end of the rotation.

It hasn’t been a typical season’s start for Corbin Burnes—his ERA a little inflated, his K% down and walks up—but his tools were working on Friday night. Heavy cutter usage, nasty change-up fading away from lefties, a quick curve dropped in to steal early strikes, and with the Giants proclivities towards the K, it wasn’t an ideal or promising pairing. He got ambushed by Davis in the first—and other than some loudish contact zeroed directly on outfielders, Burnes had stifled San Francisco.

But Burnes whiff rate is down and the Giants were able to make some uncharacteristic contact in important situations to tally runs on the Milwaukee starter. Similarly to Milwaukee’s top of the 5th, the Giants bottom of the order started their 3-run rally.

With 1-out, Brett Wisely lined his second hit of the season on an 0-2 mistake. He then easily swiped his second bag of the game after some negligence from Burnes. Cal Stevenson, the recent call-up to weather Yaz’s hamstring injury, was again able to put the ball in play in a 2-strike situation, reaching base on an errant throw from shortstop Willy Adames, that set up runners in scoring position and less than two-outs for LaMonte Wade Jr.

It was here that though that inning looked lost. Burnes needed a strikeout and he got it—with a somewhat generous assist from the home plate umpire. Down 2-runs, the backwards-K felt like a rally killer. A sewing needle in a bounce-house.

But again, miraculously, the Major League leaders in whiff put the ball in play. Thairo Estrada, who can do no wrong with a bat in his hands even if he tried, lacing a 2-2 cutter for an RBI single.

Laced isn’t quite right. How about lunged at a 2-2 cutter sent up a cloud of chalk from the opposite batters box before glancing off a leaping Burnes glove. Unable to make the play, Wisely scored from third and Estrada took first. Launch angle: -40 degrees, expected batting average: .080, distance traveled in air: a generous 4 feet—put the ball in play, put the ball in play, put the ball in play, put the ball in play.

The fun wasn’t over. J.D. Davis walked to load the bases and Joc Pederson grounded another 2-strike pitch up the middle for a 2-run, lead-flipping single.

Four key instances of contact in 2-strike counts in the 5th set up and delivered the eventual winning run for the Giants. Milwaukee’s usually elite defense had multiple chances to limit damage but failed to do so. Things ain’t always going to break your way, but after that brutal 8th inning against the Padres in Mexico City, it was a welcome change of pace for San Francisco to be on the receiving end of a rally sustained by gifts.

With a 5-4 lead, San Francisco pitching took the wheel and cruised. John Brebbia struck out 2 in a perfect 6th. Tyler Rogers allowed 1 single over 2 innings with an assist from a lunging grab by Mitch Haniger. Camilo Doval secured his 3rd save in as many games after Flores launched a pinch hit security home run à la Houston.

Celebrant: Thou sayest the Lord: Put the ball in play.

Congregants: Thanks be to God. Amen.

Saturday match-up at 4:15 PM.